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20 Oct 2009 00:03No Comments

Iran fires senior oil official amid political unrest

IRNA | Oct. 19, 2009

Iran on Sunday fired longstanding oil official Javad Yarjani, further fueling concerns that the widespread political turmoil that has wracked the Islamic Republic since its controversial presidential election has been seeping into the country's oil sector.

Iran's new oil minister dismissed Mr. Yarjani, the head of the Iranian Oil Ministry's office of OPEC Affairs, and appointed the country's current OPEC governor Mohammad Ali Khatibi as caretaker of the post, the state IRNA news agency reported Monday, citing the oil ministry's official Shana news agency.

No reasons were provided by IRNA for Mr. Yarjani's dismissal, which is the third high-profile dismissal of a senior oil official since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in June.

Akbar Torkan, Iran's deputy oil minister for planning, was sacked in late June, and Iran's last oil minister, Gholam Hossein Nozari, was replaced by Masoud Mirkazemi -- a close ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- in September.

Negotiations in Vienna

Foreign Reports | Oct. 19, 2009

Iran concluded its first round of negotiating today in Vienna on one "tangible step" it has offered to take in meeting P5+1 concerns about its nuclear program, one of four steps that the Obama Administration has said it will look at as indications of Iran's nuclear "intentions" before seeking stronger sanctions.

IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei called the meeting constructive. "We're off to a good start. Most of the technical issues have been discussed," he said. The head of the Iranian delegation, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said only that he "endorsed" El Baradei's remarks.

Both the Iranian and the U.S. governments claim to be the first to have come up with the idea of Iran's shipping its LEU out of Iran as a first step in further negotiations.

While it is true that Ahmadinejad first publicly broached the idea of Iran's buying 19.75% uranium for its medical reactor in an interview in New York in late September, it has been reported that the White House's Gary Samore brought up the subject with his Russian counterparts when President Obama visited Moscow in July. Samore broached the idea with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic energy agency, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, according to a press report. Kiriyenko and Ryabkov "immediately said this is a great idea," a White House official said. "The Russians don't need to be told what's obviously in their own interest. Anything that sets the Iranian nuclear clock back is in Russia's interest."

IRGC strategist: US, UK, KSA funding Jundollah

Tabnak | Oct. 18, 2009

Former IRGC commander Hossein Alaei accused the United States, Saudi Arabia and Britain of providing "substantial" financial support to Jundullah, a Balouch Sunni terrorist group that operates in southwestern Iran near the Pakistani border.

"The US, UK, and Saudi Arabia are exploiting the Rigi cell of terrorist groups to achieve their own objectives," Alaei told Mehr News Agency on Monday.

Chiding Pakistan for failing to control the actions of Jundullah on its soil, Alaei claimed the terrorist group "uses the territory and resources of this country [Pakistan] to launch terrorist attacks against Iran."

"Of course there is the possibility that certain NATO member states, some of which are currently stationed in Pakistan, send Jundullah on missions to achieve their domineering objectives," he added.

"The issue of the Rigi group is not limited to the smuggling of illicit drugs. Rigi's cell is an Iranian version of Al Qaeda that seeks dominance over the Baluchestan region."

Alaei, who currently works as a strategic analyst, said, "The Iranian government must pressure neighboring countries supporting the Rigi cell or authorizing it to use their soil as a base for its terrorist activities."

Majlis Approves Energy Subsidy Cuts

Press TV
| Oct. 18, 2009

Iran's parliament on Sunday approved the first two articles of a bill to cut energy subsidies and raise fuel prices to international levels.

State media said Friday the legislation aims to raise energy transport prices to world levels within the next five years and eliminate fuel subsidies by the end of the Islamic Republic's fifth five-year development plan in 2014, which is currently being drafted and must be ratified by parliament before being implemented by the government. The country's fourth development plan will end in March 2010, when the Iranian year ends.

Iran has the lowest gasoline price in the Middle East. Despite instituting a gasoline rationing program in June 2007 that has managed to curb gasoline consumption, the Islamic republic still has the highest rate of gasoline use in the region. The country reportedly pays between $35 billion to $45 billion a year on fuel subsidies. Subsidized fuels primarily include gasoline, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, and fuel oil.

Asgaroladi alleges Mousavi conceded no vote fraud in election

Tabnak | Oct. 18, 2009

Habibollah Asgaroladi claimed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi admitted to him during a post-election meeting that he was swayed by his associates in believing that vote fraud had taken place in Iran's June presidential election.

"After the election I had a friendly meeting with Mr. Mousavi, and it has been proven to him that the vote results were not fraudulent, and that the issue was blown out of proportion by his assistants," the Secretary-General of the Front for the Followers of the Path of Imam and the Leader said at a press conference on Sunday.

Asgaroladi added that he believed the current problems "must be solved within the establishment" as dragging internal disputes to the international arena is what "is wanted by the US, UK, counter-revolutionaries and pro-monarchy elements."

"We still have not reached the conclusion that Mousavi, [Mehdi] Karroubi and [Mohammad] Khatami are seditionists. We believe that certain individuals around them are exploiting them and have placed them [the three opposition figures] in circumstances that compel them to react in such a manner," he added.

Asgaroladi went on to say he believed Karroubi had "gone astray" and needed to be steered back to "the right path."

"We are looking to unite political parties, but unity does not mean telling those who are at odds with one another to kiss and make up. We want these people to reconcile with the establishment and leadership."

In response to a question about the unity plan proposed by former president Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani to remedy Iran's internal crisis, Asgaroladi said, "Along with a number of Expediency Council members, I visited Ayatollah Rafsanjani to find ways to break the current deadlock in the country. We reached the conclusion that there is only one person who can talk about the issue and that is the Supreme Leader."

When asked about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's standing in the Principlist faction after having hesitated to execute the Leader's orders in removing Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai as his vice president, Asgaroladi said, "This is something you must ask Ahmadinejad. What needed to be made public was made public [during that fiasco]."

MP: Authorities must review Ahmadinejad credentials

Parleman News | Oct. 17, 2009

Former reformist lawmaker Hossein Marashi questioned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's credentials and called on Principlists to review their affiliation with the Iranian president.

"Ahmadinejad's behavior in no way corresponds with Principlist values," Marashi said in an interview with Mosalas weekly. "Principlists must determine where they stand with Ahmadinejad."

"Ahmadinejad's credentials must be reviewed by a legal authority. We have serious doubts in his qualifications, and he should not be exempted from the law."

Rahimi lobbying to secure governorship for brother

| Oct. 18, 2009

Reports indicate that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, is lobbying lawmakers to secure a governorship for his brother.

According to Jam-e Jam online, Rahimi was seen in the corridors of the Majlis building trying to persuade lawmakers of his brother's credentials for the position of governor of Hamedan province.

The report said that Hamadan lawmakers were against the suggestion as they believed Rahimi's brother lacked sufficient executive experience for the position.

Upon encountering opposition from lawmakers, Rahimi reportedly said that he would make his brother the governor of another province.

Akbar Nateq-Nouri's brother-in-law leaves foreign ministry

| Oct. 17, 2009

Former foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi has replaced Mohammad-Ali Shahidi to become the new Deputy for Consulate, Majlis and Iranian Affairs.

In a ceremony attended by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Shahidi, who is also Akbar Nateq-Nouri's brother-in-law, was praised for years of service to the country.

Last Monday, Qashqavi announced in his weekly session with the members of the press that he would be taking on the position of the foreign ministry's deputy for Consulate, Majlis and Iranian Affairs.

Shahidi, one of the country's experienced managers, was also not in the good graces of the 'Reform Government.'

MP speaks out against subsidy bill

| Oct. 18, 2009

Alireza Mahjoub, a Tehran representative to Majlis, spoke out against the new subsidy bill being voted on by the Iranian parliament, saying that the late founder of the Islamic Republic had promised free water and electricity for all.

"After the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini promised that water and electricity would be free, but later experts said such a plan would be available only for low-income families," Mahjoub said.

"The new subsidy bill would force the impoverished members of society to double payments for utilities, and this is unfair to them."

Other lawmakers, however, rejected Mahjoub's proposed exemption for low-income households.

Beheshti's deputy arrested

Norooz News
| Oct. 18, 2009

Mohammad-Reza Moqiseh, deputy to Alireza Beheshti, active in the opposition-appointed special committee for investigation of post-election incidents, was arrested by security forces Wednesday.

Beheshti, who is Mir-Hossein Mousavi's representative in the special committee, was arrested earlier.

Moqiseh, Beheshti's deputy, had gone into hiding but was arrested on October 14 as he attempted to visit his family at his residence in Tehran.

Science Ministry rejects news of student expulsions

Norooz News | Oct. 18, 2009

The Iranian science ministry's deputy for student affairs, Hassan Moslemi-Naeini, rejected reports that students were expelled from dormitories in Tehran, Shiraz and Esfahan.

"If a student persists in behaviors that disrupt order in the dormitory, the dorm authorities are authorized to expel that student," Moslemi-Naeini said.

Moslemi-Naeini told ILNA that political activism was not a reason that would lead to the expulsion of students from dormitories. "The issue of student expulsions from dormitories because of their political activities is not true and no one has been expelled," he said.

According to Norooz, the student residents of Tehran, Shiraz and Esfahan dormitories had voiced their opposition to the Ahmadinejad administration by chanting 'Allah Akbar' and 'Death to the Dictator' from rooftops every night.

Ahmadinejad aide censures Ali Motahari

| Oct. 18, 2009

Presidential press attaché Ali-Akbar Javanfekr demanded that the Majlis governing board take action against parliament member Ali Motahari for saying Mahmoud Ahmadinejad needs to apologize to the nation.

"Mr. Motahari recently accused the president, who is the chosen representative of the Iranian nation, of having a role in the recent sedition in the country. It is expected of the Majlis governing board to take action against these insulting remarks," Javanfekr told the Iranian Labor News Agency, ILNA.

"Lack of action toward such insults, which are against the honor of a parliamentary representative, is unacceptable."

Regarding the controversy surrounding Narges Kalhor, the daughter of the presidential media advisor, who recently sought asylum in Germany, Javanfekr said, "This is a family affair, not a newsworthy issue. Certain parties are obviously trying to tarnish the cultural and social reputation of Mr. Kalhor as a presidential aide through publicizing this issue."

MP: Rafsanjani unity plan details soon to come

Tabnak | Oct. 17, 2009

Principlist lawmaker Mohammad-Reza Bahonar described former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's proposed national unity plan to break the country's current political deadlock as a "solid proposal."

When questioned on the details of the plan, Bahonar, who is involved in drafting the proposal, said, "There is no need to hurry to elaborate on the details of this proposal."

The deputy speaker told ILNA that it is best to keep such proposals, which aim to restore unity among political parties and figures, away from publicity in the media.

He refused to answer any further questions regarding the matter, saying, "God willing, it will be a solid proposal that will yield results."

Rafsanjani, who heads the Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, in his first Friday Prayer sermon following the disputed presidential election had stressed the necessity of drafting a proposal to break the political deadlock in the country.

Rafsanjani also broached the issue in the sixth meeting of the Experts, describing the proposal as one put forth by figures "devoted to the Islamic establishment."

While Rafsanjani's proposal has not been well received by pro-government figures, it has managed to garner a number of staunch supporters in Majlis. A delegation of cleric lawmakers recently met with the former president to discuss the proposal.

Jafar Panahi barred from leaving Iran

| Oct. 15, 2009

Acclaimed Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been barred from leaving the country.

Panahi, who was on his way to attend a film festival in Paris, was stopped at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport on October 14 and his passport was confiscated.

Panahi was briefly arrested in early August after participating in a memorial service held for the victims of the post-election protests at Tehran's Behesht-e Zahra cemetery.

Panahi has been barred from exiting the country at a time when he is due to head the jury at the Mumbai Film Festival in two weeks.

Last week, Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed-Aria and actor Mojtaba Mir-Tahmaseb, who were traveling to the US to take part in the "Up Close and Personal" program on the sidelines of the 2010 Academy Awards, were also stopped by airport security.

Motahari: Ahmadinejad behind Iran's political turmoil

Tabnak | Oct. 17, 2009

Tehran representative to Majlis Ali Motahari censured Principlist politicians for demanding an apology from the opposition leaders allegedly behind post-election unrest while failing to recognize the Iranian president's role in instigating the sedition.

"Principlists, particularly the government's staunch supporters, believe that unless the instigators of the sedition admit to their mistakes and apologize to the people or are tried and punished [for their role in the post-election unrest], it is meaningless to talk about national unity as such a plan would mean sparing those who instigated the sedition," Motahari told Mehr News Agency.

"But these friends of ours fail to see that [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad also had a role in this sedition and their request applies to him [Ahmadinejad] as well."

"The president's conduct in [pre-election] debates -- leveling accusations against figures who were absent -- instigated this sedition. After his victory he continued to aggravate the protestors," said the member of the Majlis Cultural Commission.

"For national unity to be restored, just as [Mir-Hossein] Mousavi needs to accept his mistakes and apologize to the people, so does Ahmadinejad. Otherwise this sedition will continue."

Motahari defined the opponents of the national unity plan in two groups, saying, "One group opposes the plan based on its belief [that it will yield no results] and the other group is against national reconciliation because the continuation of this sedition and this unstable environment is in their interests and these people will better achieve their objectives under such circumstances."

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